Japan horse racing: How to bet the Victoria Mile

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May 16th, 2020

It seems a little strange to be thinking about the Breeders’ Cup when the Triple Crown races haven’t yet been run, but the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series will heat up Sunday, with the Victoria Mile (G1) at Tokyo Racecourse in Japan.

A 1,600-meter grass race for fillies and mares, the Victoria Mile is a “Win and You’re In” qualifier for the Nov. 7 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1) at Keeneland. Only time will tell if the Victoria Mile winner will accept the invitation, but that is a concern for another day. Of more immediate interest to handicappers is finding the winner of the Victoria Mile, which drew 18 entries.

The horse to beat is superstar #12 Almond Eye, the winner of the 2018 Japan Filly Triple Crown and against males in the 2018 Japan Cup (G1), 2019 Dubai Turf (G1), and 2019 Tenno Sho Autumn (G1). The daughter of Lord Kanaloa possesses a powerful turn of foot, and frequently sprints the final 400 meters of her races in less than 34 seconds. She has utilized this terrific acceleration to win Group 1 races over 1,600 meters, 1,800 meters, 2,000 meters, and 2,400 meters.

Almond Eye hasn’t run since she finished ninth as the 3-2 favorite in the 2,500-meter Arima Kinen (G1) on Dec. 22, but her disappointing showing is forgivable, considering she’d been rerouted to the race after missing the Dec. 8 Hong Kong Cup (G1) because of an illness. The five-month layoff shouldn’t be a concern, either, since Almond Eye has demonstrated the ability to win Group 1 races off similar breaks on three occasions in the past.

Assuming Almond Eye produces something near her best effort in the Victoria Mile, she should prevail without difficulty. The key to making a nice score on the race is to identify the right horses to use underneath Almond Eye in the exotic wagers.

A logical candidate is #1 Loves Only You, the narrow winner of the 2019 Yushun Himba (Japanese Oaks, G1) at 2,400 meters. While she hasn’t run since she came in third in the Nov. 10 Queen Elizabeth Cup (G1), cutting back to 1,600 meters should be well within reach for this classy daughter of Deep Impact. Loves Only You clocked this distance in 1:33.60 when she claimed an allowance race at Kyoto as a juvenile.

#18 Sound Chiara brings strong recent form to the Victoria Mile field. She rattled off consecutive victories in the 1,600-meter Kyoto Kimpai (G3), 1,400-meter Kyoto Himba (G3), and 1,600-meter Hanshin Himba (G2) to kick off 2020. The latter victory saw her sprint the final 400 meters in a rapid :33.70 to beat #14 Scarlet Color by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:32.90, but Sound Chiara will be marooned in the far outside gate Sunday, which sets up the potential for a wide trip.

One longshot to consider is #7 Danon Fantasy, who employed stalking tactics to finish fifth in the Hanshin Himba. The 4-year-old daughter of Deep Impact was only beaten 2 1/4 lengths in her return from a six-month layoff, and she probably wasn’t fit for a peak effort, considering she had put on 48 pounds since her last run.

Her connections expect a sharper effort Sunday, and Danon Fantasy won the Hanshin Juvenile Fillies (G1) at 1,600 meters as a juvenile, so we know she has the talent to be a top-class miler.

Let’s key Danon Fantasy underneath Almond Eye in the trifecta.

$3 trifecta: 12 with 7 with 1,5,14,16,18 ($15)
$3 trifecta: 12 with 1,5,14,16,18 with 7 ($15)

Good luck!